Feb. 17, 2011 at 11:19 AM ET
Oh, the pitfalls of popularity.
The more Facebook friends you have, the more likely you are to be stressed out, a new study finds. While it may boost the human ego to know their popularity has touched so many lives, it also induces a whole new array of anxiety specific to Facebook. For instance, you're more likely to worry about periodic purging of said friends, and more apt to succumb to the constant pressure of being so darn witty and charming in status updates.
"It's like being a mini news channel about yourself. The more people you have the more you feel there is an audience there," Dr. Kathy Charles, who led the study at Scotland's Edinburgh Napier University, told BBC News. "You are almost a mini celebrity and the bigger the audience the more pressure you feel to produce something about yourself."
Ain't that the truth? Why, this morning, I'm already sweating, trying to figure out how to start the day with the right status update. Because, God forbid, what if I don't give my eager masses something to chew on for the rest of the morning? Their day will be shot, as will mine.
Charles — whose team solicited data from about 200 students through focus groups, an online survey of 175 people as well as interviews — found that one in 10 said that Facebook "made them feel anxious" and more than three in 10 said "they felt guilty about rejecting friend requests."
Popularity means new people are constantly trying to be your friends. Twelve percent of the students questioned said they disliked receiving friend requests, while almost two-thirds (63 percent) said they put friend requests in limbo by delaying responses.
While most of the respondents said the best benefit of Facebook was the convenience of keeping in touch with folks, the worst side effect of using the site was becoming addicted to it, to the point of being anxious when they couldn't get to it, "for fear of missing important social information or offending contacts."
"Like gambling, Facebook keeps users in a neurotic limbo, not knowing whether they should hang on in there just in case they miss out on something good," Charles said.
This is true. I get most of my news through my News Feed, so if I don't check in, the world could be ending and I wouldn't even know. (It probably helps that more than half my Facebook friends are other journalists.)
It's a magical moment, that 1,000-Facebook friends milestone. You see the numbers start to shoot up, and you think, do I really know this many people? Some Facebook users become friend whores, amassing numbers regardless of whether they know the person or not, and some (like me) actually make it a point not to approve requests unless I have talked to or corresponded with the person first. (And in fact, most of my Facebook friends are my real-life friends, going back to childhood.)
Does it make me feel like a mini-celebrity? Maybe, just a little bit. But rather than be stressed out about it, I'm going to revel in it. For now, at least.
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